It looks like wherever the Kyoto Treaty is in public opinion, Canada’s prime minister puts it well down on his list of political priorities.
And where is it in public opinion? Today, I counted 98 individual newspaper articles containing “throne speech” and “Kyoto.” Looks impressive, but it’s not. Harper’s alleged abandonment of the Kyoto Treaty—which is how yesterday’s Throne Speech acknowledgement that Canada cannot meet Kyoto targets is being generally spun—is not news. Everyone in Canada, including everyone in Quebec, knows Harper has never cared much for the Treaty.
In spite of this, Kyotophilic Quebeckers handed Harper the Kyotophobe some major encouragement—and Stéphane Dion the arch-Kyotophile some major discouragement—in last month’s by-elections. Which may mean that Kyoto is important when it comes to talking but not when it comes to acting, even when acting means casting a vote in a ballot box.
It may also mean that most people know the difference between paying lip service to the treaty and actually reducing emissions. Harper didn’t say he wouldn’t cut emissions. So as long as he makes gestures toward reducing them—as he did in winter 2007, when he pledged financial support for Hydro Quebec’s 700 megawatt Rupert River generation project—that’s good enough. (Nobody in the media or environmental lobby connected the Rupert project with climate change policies, by the way. This in itself is an interesting commentary on Kyoto as a public issue; see article.)
Dion knows this, which is why he will support the Throne Speech.
For most of us the Kyoto treaty floated by on the water under the bridge quite a while ago. Harper simply stated the obvious and got some respect for being frank about reality. Dion expressed a lot of sentiment about our Kyoto promises but never anything hard or real. People don’t like that kind of empty talk any more.
It is clear that the players who are going to do anything significant about global heating are the USA, China, and India. That is the club that Canada needs to be part of. The European phoneys who cancel their nuclear programs and build coal fired electricity generators while trading carbon credits are not for us.
Harper still hates nuclear. So we still don’t have any political leadership anywhere who will openly endorse nuclear power. We won’t make any progress until this political milestone is achieved – i.e. politicians publicly stating that they will work to get new nuclear plants built.
I have a prediction. The USA will start building new nuclear plants in about two years. Canada will suddenly realize that this is a good idea at that point. We will follow the USA lead, lagging by about five years.
I have a second prediction. Harper will get rid of AECL before we start building anything. Consequently, we will pay the Yanks to build our new light water reactors for us, using our oil glut riches. Why should we do all that complicated engineering when the Yanks are so much better at it?